Red streak.

“Can I ask you a controversial question?” he said, leaning in.

“Sure,” I replied. We were two hours and as many drinks into a date that seemed, by all measures I knew, to be going extremely well. He’d been complimentary of my appearance and my intellect, finding subtle ways to touch me that — rather than causing me to stiffen and scoot my chair back — evoked that telltale jerk behind the navel that means, I think I like this guy.

Then he said the words that changed everything.

“What is it you prioritize that makes you identify as liberal?”

Cape: Vintage, similar here. Sweater: J.Crew. Pants: Zara. Boots: Topshop, similar here. Earrings: CC & La Dame. Bracelet: Vintage, similar here. Sunglasses: Cramilo. Bag: Vintage, similar here.

Shit, I thought. I had known this was coming. There were signs: He was a finance executive whose Southern drawl had lingered through his Ivy League education and stint in the military. At 6’9”, he possessed the kind of clear-eyed Aryan good looks that made me doubt he’d ever had to fight to finish a sentence, much less get his basic needs met in an oppressive system.

I didn’t want to hold these things against him. He was driven, well-spoken, intellectually curious — the kind of person who might have succeeded even without his sexy-white-male privilege. What’s more, I know I spend most of my time with others who see the world through blue-tinted glasses. I’m open to challenging my views, though there are topics I find it hard to debate without shutting down.

I’d tested the waters the day before, mentioning that I was on my way to the Women’s March in NYC. “Wearing a girl power crop top, so enjoy that visual,” I’d added. I’m not like a regular feminist, I’m a cool feminist!

“Get it!” he’d responded. “Do great things, talk soon.”

OK, I thought. He knows, and he doesn’t hate it. So…we’ll see.

Unfortunately, I hadn’t prepared very well for the politics portion of the program.

“What is it you prioritize that makes you identify as liberal?”

“Um. Social issues?” I said blandly, my mind screaming, Health care! Women’s rights! Human rights! Fucking everything! “Why don’t you tell me more about your views?”

“Ask a better question,” he responded.

“Fine,” I said. “Did you vote for Trump?”

He paused.

“Is that a yes?” I said.

“No,” he sputtered. “But I don’t like your question. It’s simple. I asked you what you prioritize so I could learn more about you, not judge you based on how you voted.” 

“It is simple,” I countered. “Voting for Trump tells me what you’re willing to overlook to get what you want. So you didn’t, then? Did you vote for Hillary, or did you not vote?”

“I wrote in General Mattis,” he said.

It was hard not to roll my eyes. Of course you did, I thought. Of course you see no issue with wasting your vote, because nothing that happens as a result will affect you whatsoever.

The dismissive rage I felt startled me. Suddenly, I hated his confidence and his good looks. I hated myself for being attracted to them. I wondered how eyes so clear could see the world so differently.

It was a tense moment, but we got through it. In fact, having long passed polite, we went all in on each other, barreling gracelessly through a couple of other delicate subjects. While I’d always rather skip the small talk, even I knew it was a lot for two people with little more in common than a mutual physical attraction.

I could tell, leaving, that something felt off. Still, I texted the next day to ask if I could see him again, clinging to that behind-the-navel jerk that had made me feel such promise. He responded that I was an interesting person, but that he would be more comfortable being friends.

It was a kind, polite, maddeningly respectful rejection — one that made me feel sadness rather than dismissive rage. It would have been easier if he had ghosted me. Classic Republican! I could have railed. Out of sight, out of mind.

I don’t believe  in staying neutral — not when the stakes are so high. But a world observed only through blue-tinted glasses is bound to be a bit distorted. Maybe I could stand to be more amenable to a red streak. Maybe I’ve got one, and I just don’t know it yet.

I do know this: Dismissive rage is easy. It’s more comfortable in a world that’s ruled by just one color. But for better or worse, a world that deals in both is far more interesting. And I learned that day that a red streak isn’t a deal breaker…at least not for me.

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